The role of pulses in Africa’s agricultural transformation

Special Feature in FAO’s Nature and Faune Journal* highlights how pulses can play a major role in transforming the continent’s agriculture by increasing incomes through higher-value crops

The International Year of Pulses was a unique opportunity to boost production, consumption and trade of these nutritious seeds. As outlined in this special feature, there is little doubt that these key crops can make a change in the African agricultural sector.

African agriculture today is largely based on cereal crops, which are sold at lower prices than pulses. Smallholder farmers make up the majority of the continent’s population. These farmers derive their livelihoods primarily from rain-fed agriculture. Global demand for pulses is growing and, currently, about one fourth of the world’s pulses are produced in Africa. The upsurge in the demand for pulses offers farmers an opportunity to increase their incomes by growing these higher-valuecrops.

Investing in the development of pulses’ value chains and increasing access to market information and finance will allow smallholders to take advantage of the growing global demand. This means that for the same amount of land, they could increase their income, helping them to move out of poverty.

In their article, the authors highlight an example of local investment: India is seeking to introduce contract farming of pulses in some African countries. Although India is the biggest producer of pulses in the world, it is also the biggest consumer. Therefore, its production does not cover its needs. This is an opportunity to scale up production in some African countries.

Mpofu and Nyoni comment, “Small holders in Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi stand to benefit from such initiatives to increase their incomes, as long as such investments follow the Responsible Agricultural Investments (RAI) principles.”  The authors continue, “The economies of these countries will benefit through increased pulses value addition, the development of both up and downstream industries and job creation that could combat both rural and urban poverty.”

Find out more about the role of pulses in Africa’s agricultural transformation: